(Em)powering Philadelphia

There are thousands of mentoring programs in the country serving three million youths. Dozens of states and cities have launched mentoring programs, and many corporations have their own initiatives. If there is one thing that Americans seem to agree on, it is that millions of children need guidance from positive adult role models.

That’s why it was so easy to create Lots of Power, our new mentoring program in Philadelphia that addresses one of the city’s biggest problems–vacant lots. Our project will pair high-school age students with professional designers and architects to research and develop innovative concepts for specific vacant lots in Kensington.

During the six-week program, teen participants will work in teams with professional mentor to gain real-world experience using design thinking to discover and exhibit creative potential, communicate their ideas and take positive action in their communities.

Our partners, AIGA Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley Green Building Councilwill provide the mentors. We now in search of high school students who want to work with us to make the city a better place to live and work. If you know a student who would like to participate, please contact Andrea Pellegrinio at

We’ve learned how damaging vacant lots can be to a neighborhood. The Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations has documented the enormous costs of vacant and blighted property — running into the billions. We also know that vacant lots reduce home values by 6.5 percent citywide and by up to 20 percent in some neighborhoods.

Now we know we can’t solve the city’s vacant lot problem. But we think Lots of Power goes a long way in bringing together young people and professional planners, architects and designers to helping restore life and dignity to one neighborhood in Kensington.

I’m always asked why we invest our time and money into Lots of Power. At Clean Currents, we strongly believe these programs are an effective way to engage the neighborhood, to make an impact in a city where we just started doing business. We are passionate believers in being socially responsible corporate citizens and not in name only. We practice what we preach, and we concern ourselves with community engagement.

Instead of hiding behind high fences, we believe in building bridges. At Clean Currents, we’ve become a part of the community by supporting the community. Our Green Neighborhood Challenge (GNEC) gives local groups and non-profits the opportunity to earn money for green projects while supporting wind energy. These relationships have helped our partners plant trees, buy recycling bins and build gardens. The benefits–to us, to them, to the environment–are incalculable.